The Employment Outlook for Pediatric NPs and PAs

If you’re a nurse practitioner or physician assistant who wants to work in pediatrics, it’s a good time to pursue that dream. 

First of all, you have options: you can pursue certification in primary care or acute care. Secondly, demand for these advanced practitioners continues to climb, and the salaries for pediatric NP jobs and pediatric PA jobs are up, too.

In fact, pediatric nurse practitioners, or PNPs, who are certified in primary care, earn an average base salary of $106,301, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners’ most recent National Sample Survey in 2018. PNPs who are certified in acute care earn about $96,494.

Plus, pediatrics can be an incredibly meaningful career.

“As a PNP in the primary care office, you have the rewarding opportunity to watch a family bring their newborn home from the office and watch that same patient get ready for college years later,” said Cindy Trent, CPNP-C, a pediatric nurse practitioner and faculty member for Walden University’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program.

FIND pediatric locum tenens opportunities across the U.S. 

Rapid growth of the NP and PA workforces 

Opportunities for pediatric NPs and PAs continue to open up, thanks to the overall growth of the NP and PA workforces. In general, the numbers of nurse practitioners and physician assistants have been rising to meet the growing need for healthcare.

In a 2018 article for the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers David Auberbach, Peter Buerhaus and Douglas Staiger predicted that the numbers of nurse practitioners in the United States would grow 6.8 percent every year between 2016 and 2030. That was faster than the forecasted growth rate of 4.3 percent for PAs and 1.1 percent for physicians during the same time period.

In fact, the number of NPs has skyrocketed over the past decade. A recent study published in Health Affairs, by the same team of researchers, found that the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) NPs in the U.S. more than doubled from 2010-2017, from approximately 91,000 to 190,000.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is also forecasting significant growth in the demand for PAs. As the demand for PAs to provide care grows, opportunities for pediatric PA jobseekers will increase, too. As of 2018, there were 118,000 PAs in the workforce, and the BLS has predicted a 31 percent increase in employment from 2018 to 2028.

The compensation for physician assistant jobs is also on the rise. The 2019 AAPA Salary Report noted that salaries for PAs continue to increase steadily, reporting that the median base salary for PAs reached $106,000 in 2018.

The recently released Statistical Profile of Certified Physician Assistants by State also noted the growth in the PA workforce and increased salaries for PAs. The report also found that 25.8 percent of the country’s PA workforce is practicing in primary care, including family medicine, general internal medicine and general pediatrics. 

Demand increases for pediatric expertise 

This could be the right time to have that pediatric specialization on your resume.

For instance, nurse practitioners seeking certification as a primary care PNP can apply to the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) for initial certification as CPNP-PC. Certifications can also be obtained in acute care, namely CPNP-AC.

Pediatric physician assistants can also become certified and earn a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in Pediatrics from the National Commission on Certification for Physician Assistants (NCCPA) to show their advanced expertise in the specialty. 

According to a white paper published in the May/June 2019 issue of the Journal of Pediatric Health Care, a growing number of healthcare organizations understand the value of pediatric expertise.

“Health care systems are increasingly recognizing the importance of hiring providers with pediatric expertise for the care of children,” wrote Kristin Hittle Gigli, PhD, RN, CPNP-AC, CCRN, et al. “Providers without pediatric education and certification require longer orientation, resulting in loss of provider productivity and reimbursement for postgraduate pediatric education.”

The authors also warn of a “forecasted critical shortage of PNPs over the next decade.”

The areas where pediatric expertise may be in the most demand: underserved and rural areas, which are already struggling with provider shortages. 

But scope of practice barriers remain in place in many states, which could make providers who want to practice independently think hard about the best long-term location for them.

Pediatric NPs and PAs who want to try out new locations can work with a locum tenens agency to find short-term assignments and get assistance with state licensing, credentialing and housing. 

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STAFF CARE can connect you with locum tenens pediatric NP jobs and pediatric PA jobs throughout the U.S. 

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